For years, I’ve taught that we must take time to “come apart” (for replenishment) before we “come apart” (from overwhelmment).
And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.—Mark 6:31
But today’s world of technology puts an extra step in the decision to come apart. It’s not just a matter of location; it’s also a matter of connection.
Disconnecting to connect
I’m pretty connected—both to my smart phone and through my smart phone.
But before our family vacation this year, my wife and our church deacons suggested I leave my phone at home.
I wrestled with the idea a bit and then decided they were right. From the time Terrie and I left Lancaster to the time we returned, I was unplugged. No emails, no texts, no blogging, no Twitter. (I had scheduled blogs and tweets in advance.)
Our vacation was indeed a time of refreshment. From some much-needed physical rest to extended time of waiting on God and resting in Him, it was replenishing.
Our children (and grandchildren) took their vacations with us, and we made some tremendous family memories. I got to take Camden fishing (and he caught his first!) and teach Delanie how to swim (‘wimming, as she called it). We had great family barbecues and wonderful times of fellowship together.
Perhaps most memorable of all was having family devotions with my adult children and grandchildren. All four of our children and their spouses love the Lord, and spending time around God’s Word with them was a joy. Having grandchildren in family devotions was like reliving the years when our kids were young. Hearing their questions, watching their awe, and speaking the truths of God’s Word into their hearts was unspeakably precious.
After vacation, I planned a couple weeks of intense study before returning to Lancaster. This time gave me the opportunity to do considerable reading of a broad range of topics—American history, theology, church leadership, productivity, missionary biography, personal spiritual growth, and more. I’ll be able to draw from this reading for months to come.
(I plan to post reviews from some of these books in the coming weeks. For now I’ll mention that one of the most helpful books I read was Richard Swenson’s Contentment: The Secret to a Lasting Calm. My favorite quote: “Contentment is our glad submission wrapped in God’s providence.”)
During this period, I also spent protracted time with the Lord in prayer, Bible study, and seeking His face. The Lord gave me sweet fellowship with Him and fresh vision and goals for the church I pastor.
I’ve been back in town now for a week, and I’m definitely plugged back in. My phone is once again vibrating, buzzing, and ringing in my pocket. I’m back to full days of meetings, counseling, and administration. The difference now is that I have a sense of renewed joy, rest, and energy in the work of the Lord. And, I have a renewed ability to focus away from the distractions of technology.
My uncle (a farmer in Colorado) gave sage advice when he called yesterday: “Well, Paul, you’re back on the horse. Just be careful you don’t get bucked off.”
One of the most significant ways for a pastor to focus on the Lord and spend quality time in study is to disconnect from tech—completely.
Of course, my going unplugged was made possible by a skilled and dedicated staff. I greatly appreciate our leadership team and their care for people while I replenished. Twenty-six years ago, as a young pastor with no staff, I couldn’t have taken this kind of time away. But I could (and did) take a day off at a time.
What would it take for you to completely disconnect?
It doesn’t have to be for a three-week period. It may be for an afternoon. It may be one day every week.
May I suggest to you what my wife and deacons suggested to me? Unplug.
Come apart before you come apart.